Borzoi: Dog Breed Profile
A dignified dog bred as regal members of the Russian aristocracy, the Borzoi has long been considered one of the most beautiful of all breeds. Though these large, elegant sighthounds are agreeable and calm, they have an incredible ability to run at 35 to 40 miles an hour—which isn’t surprising since underneath their luxurious silky coat is the ancient blood of the Greyhound. Today, Borzois are affectionate and loyal family pets that possess both strength and style.
Height: 26 to 28 inches and up
Weight: 60 to 105 pounds
Coat: Flat, wavy, or curly
Coat Color: White, brown, black, cream, tan, and other variations
Life Expectancy: 9 to 14 years
Characteristics of the Borzoi
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History of the Borzoi Dog
Known as the Russian Wolfhound until 1936, the Borzoi dog was bred to be both fast, strong, and tough enough to pursue some of the most ferocious quarry. They originated in 17th century Russia, when Arabian greyhounds were bred with a thick-coated Russian dog. Appropriately, "Borzoi" is the masculine singular form of an archaic Russian adjective that means "fast."
The Russian concept of hunting trials was developed during the era of the Tzars; these tests were often used to select Borzoi breeding stock so that only the fastest and most intelligent hunting dogs were bred. These dogs would hunt in packs, sometimes of more than 100 dogs, with just as many Foxhounds and people to assist them in their pursuit of game—which was sometimes hare and small game but wolf, more often than not.
What would become the first Borzoi standard was written in 1650, and they were bred by the Russian aristocracy for hundreds of years. Exports of Borzoi to other countries were rare during the Soviet era, but enough of these dogs had been taken to countries including England, Scandinavia, Western Europe, and America by the late 19th century for the breed to establish itself outside its native Russia. The Borzoi is said to have made its way to America in 1889, when William Wade of Hulton, Pennsylvania brought one of these dogs over; the dog was originally purchased from Freeman Lloyd.
Borzoi Dog Care
Due to their long, silky coat, the Borzoi is a shedder and will need a brushing every couple of days with a pin or slicker brush and/or a comb to remove loose hair and dirt. The Borzoi has an annual shedding season when more frequent grooming will be necessary. This breed's coat is unique in its texture along with its distribution over the body; there should be a frill on its neck, as well as feathering on its hindquarters and tail. As with most dogs, this breed will also require regular bathing and nail trimming.
In some ways, Borzoi dogs are catlike, as they can be both quiet and stubborn. When it comes to training, the Borzoi may be intelligent, gentle, and well-mannered, but they are also both sensitive and independent—so training may be somewhat of a challenge. They are also likely to become easily bored with repetitive and seemingly pointless activity, and like other sighthounds, they are very sensitive to harsh treatment and will not be able to cope with raised voices or any form of punishment-based training. Borzoi owners will need plenty of patience, consistency, and probably a little bit of humor, and as always, early socialization and training is key.
Though they make loyal, affectionate family dogs, Borzoi aren’t the type of dogs to do a lot of roughhousing with children—they’re a bit too dignified for that. They can often be reserved with strangers but affectionate with their family and people they know well. Because of their strong prey drive and instincts to hunt and chase, Borzoi dogs may not always do well entering a home with other pets; ideally, they should be introduced to other animals in the home when they are puppies.
These large, athletic dogs will require daily exercise in the form of long walks, and it’s imperative to have a fenced-in yard and only walk these powerful sighthound dogs on a leash, as the sight of wildlife like a cat or squirrel on the run will be far too much for their strong pursuit instinct. This breed will take great pleasure in participating in active, outdoor activities with their owners, and they tend to excel in canine sports like lure coursing and agility.
Common Health Problems
Borzoi are generally healthy dogs, but they have been associated with some health conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans, and progressive retinal atrophy.
Because they are a large, deep-chested breed, these dogs can be susceptible to gastric dilatation volvulus (more frequently referred to as GDV or bloat), a sudden and life-threatening stomach condition, so Borzio owners should educate themselves about the symptoms and the immediate course of action required. Sighthounds like the Borzoi tend to be more sensitive to anesthesia than other breeds.
As with all dog breeds, a Borzoi’s ears should be checked and teeth brushed on a regular basis.
Diet and Nutrition
Surprisingly, Borzoi dogs typically eat less than other dogs of their size, and puppies tend to consume more food than adults due to their rapid growth. Borzoi owners should be mindful about over-feeding or offering too many treats, as these dogs could potentially become overweight and subject to obesity-related issues.
The Borzoi should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared (with veterinary supervision). Be sure to choose a food that’s should be appropriate to your dog’s age, whether they are a puppy, adult, or senior.
Because of the tendency of these dogs to run and chase, be careful to time feedings where they won’t be engaging in strenuous exercise before or after feeding time, as it’s a contributing factor for bloat. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times for these active dogs.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Borzoi Dog
Be sure to check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for Borzoi dogs that are in need of a forever home. The national rescue group for Borzoi dogs, the Borzoi Club of America, can also provide online resources to help you find your new best friend.
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
When determining if the Borzoi is the right dog for you, be sure to research all aspects of the breed and consult other Borzoi owners, breeders, and rescue groups to learn more. With a little bit of research you're sure to find the dog breed that's right for you! Check out these other similar dog breeds.